By Khaled Ahmed
July 14, 2018
On Friday, June 6, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) predictably found the already dismissed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif guilty and sentenced him to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment (RI), his daughter Maryam Nawaz to seven years of RI, and his son-in-law to one year of imprisonment. The NAB ruled that Nawaz Sharif couldn’t prove that he was innocent of acquiring property in London through money laundering.
The NAB court “admitted” that the prosecution couldn’t prove any act of corruption on Nawaz Sharif’s part but took advantage of its remit that puts the burden of proof on the accused. Nawaz Sharif had to prove how he acquired the 10 million pounds worth of property in London in the name of his sons and how he took the money for it out of Pakistan. The reference was to four luxury flats in Avenfield House, Park Lane.
Nawaz Sharif was earlier removed as prime minister by the Supreme Court of Pakistan for not being “sadiq” (truthful) and “ameen” (trustworthy) like the Holy Prophet because he had failed to list in his income tax returns the salary he was supposed to receive from his son’s company in the UAE. Everyone, including the ex-PM’s arch-rival Imran Khan, thought that the court’s decision lacked credibility. Nawaz Sharif also lost his leadership of the party. Now the ex-PM has to go to jail just 19 days before the general election, which he thinks is already rigged by the deep state.
No PM in Pakistan has been allowed to finish his five-year term. When a Pakistan PM falls foul of the deep state, the Opposition, senior bureaucrats and the judiciary get together against him. Nawaz Sharif knows that the electoral minefield has been laid against him by causing defections in his party, scaring the media into lambasting him as a corrupt man and kidnapping and torturing bloggers who “blaspheme” against the deep state.
The caretaker government has bowed to the policy of “mainstreaming” of terrorists by allowing Hafiz Saeed to field his banned Milli Muslim League under the banner of Allah-of-Akbar Tehreek. It has also “mainstreamed” the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba by allowing it to contest the polls in South Punjab.
Nawaz Sharif has accused the deep state of rousing central Punjab’s shrine-connected feudal PML-N loyalists to rebel against him. He alleges that his government was nearly toppled by a foul-mouthed, wheelchair-riding imam of a masjid heading the Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), Khadim Husain Rizvi.
Rizvi staged a violent encounter with the police near Islamabad because “the PML-N government had insulted the Holy Prophet”. Suddenly the Barelvi mystics of Punjab, once ignored because of their non-jihadi faith, have come into big money and mobilise violent mobs. The TLP is fielding 150 candidates — each constituency normally soaks up Rs 2 crore in pre-election campaigns.
The caretaker government is not supposed to take big decisions, especially those relating to security and foreign policy. But by allowing two internationally condemned terrorist organisations to participate in elections, it has challenged the world community, including its “all-weather friends” China and Saudi Arabia. Imran Khan’s party Tehreek-e-Insaf seems the frontrunner in the election. Nawaz’s younger brother Shahbaz was never accepted as a leader by the PML-N, which is now rudderless.
The media has been by and large tamed through threats of violence. TV channels have been converted to PML-N’s opposition. Writing about the newspaper, Dawn, journalist-author Ahmed Rashid wrote on the BBC website: “Dawn has faced intimidation, harassment of its journalists, a ban on hawkers distributing the newspaper… cable operators have been told to take its TV channel off air… advertisers are warned not to promote their goods in Dawn. Last year, in the province of Balochistan, the newspaper was unavailable for weeks on end.”
Khaled Ahmed is consulting editor, Newsweek Pakistan